Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tale

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

October 3, 2019

Out west where I grew up, to tell a tall tale was to tell a whopper of a lie so big no one would ever believe it. Someone would start the storytelling, and the next person would try to out-exaggerate the last one. Some told tall tales as a joke, especially if an inexperienced newbie might believe it. Wild Bill Hickok’s biographer, Joseph Rosa, suspected that Bill magnified the truth for fun.

Tall tales are the stuff of dime-store novels and pulp fiction.

What is a tall tale? One that openly exaggerates and magnifies the truth to the point of being unbelievable. The story itself is hyperbole. But we want to believe it because it’s humorous, melodramatic, or sensational.

This contest asks you to give a tall tale a modern bent. Don’t rely on the stories of Pecos Bill or 19th-century dime-store westerns. Go past the early sci-fi and detective stories of pulp fiction. Write a tall tale that is recognizable set in the present time.

Have fun, exaggerating!


  1. Write a tall tale and exaggerate something that happens to someone somewhere.
  2. It can be fiction or fictionized BOTS (based on a true story) but must be exaggerated to the point it couldn’t possibly be true. It’s okay — tell a whopper of a lie as a story!
  3. It can be humorous, sensational, or melodramatic from any genre.
  4. Use original details to express your tale.
  5. Make the judges laugh or gasp in surprise.


  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the story that matters most.
  4. Use the form below the rules to enter.
  5. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at
  6. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 9, 2019.
  7. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  8. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.


Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names in order to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).


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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Hard ta tell a tall tale from fact these days Kid, ‘cause fact is there’s some shift goin’ on ya jist cain’t make up.”
    “Yep. Pal, tell the one ‘bout the guy who denied global warmin’, claimed it was all a part a his plan.”
    “Called it coastal improvement, got folks in South Dakota ta invest in waterfront property. Water kep risin’ an’ when them extreme cold snaps a winter came it all turned ta ice. Whole country iced over. Guy said it was all part a his plan, an’ he sold hats. Hats said, ‘Make America skate again’.”

    • Charli Mills

      😀 That’s the witticism that built a nation!

      • Charli Mills

        I was thinking more about Vermont’s contributions.

      • Charli Mills

        Witty folk, them Vermonters. So I understand.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Ah, the Grand Republic of Vermont; Lost Nation. My horse for a Kingdom.

      • Charli Mills

        It is found.

      • Susan Zutautas

        Ha, ha, just spewed coffee all over my keyboard.

    • Norah

      Brilliant! I think it’s a winner, hands down! Mind you, I haven’t read any other entries yet. ????????

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        This is not an entry, just these two yahoos hangin round the ranch. They are ineligible as they are employed by Shorty. I think she pays them with virtual carrots and bacon.

      • Norah

        Yeah, I know. But it’s still a winner in my books. Love these two. I’m glad Shorty allows them to linger on. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        These yahoos are always winners! 😀

      • Norah

        I agree!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:
    Saddle up! The Carrot Ranch Literary Community’s writing contests have begun.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing! Your leadership at the Ranch is appreciated!

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Kid’s KEVA Kiosk

    “Kid. What’re ya doin’ asettin’ in thet upended stock tank?”
    “I decided ta set up shop fer the rodeo crowds. This here’s my think tank. Folks’ll pay me fer my thoughts.”
    “I don’t think much a this idea, Kid. Didja clear it with Shorty?”
    “What do you think?”
    “Thinkin’ not. So how’s yer gig work?”
    “Easy. Ask me a question, I give ya the Kid’s Eye View Answer.”
    “In 99 words?”
    “Naw, jist somethin’ quippy. But if’n someone was ta request a 99 word tale fer themsefs an’ were ta donate via Shorty’s paypal button…”
    “Huh. Who’da thunk it.”

    • Charli Mills

      An upended stock tank! That’s a fine think tank! Thanks for all the thunkin.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Hi Charli. I think Kid is serious about this kiosk! (All proceeds go to the ranch.)

      • Charli Mills

        If you want to post kid’s Think Tank and offer folks some reasoning, I’d put the tank somewhere — post or ad or something else.

    • Norah

      I could do with a bit of the Kid’s thunkin. Seems he might be more clever than he sometimes appears. I wonder if I got him to write me a 99 story, could I enter it in the contest. He could be my ghost writer. ????

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Kid’s got scruples, won’t write fer someone who kin do the job themsef. Yer a mighty fine writer, though ya got scruples yersef. It ain’t lyin” yer ta do Mizz Colvin, just stretching’ the truth a the tale.

      • Norah

        I think there’s a few tall tales in the making there too, D. It don’t harm anyone to come up some alternative plans sometimes. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        You’re a solid thunker, Norah!

      • Norah

        Sometimes I get all thunked out. ????

      • Charli Mills


  4. Sarah Brentyn

    It’s here. 🙂 Looks like you’ve got a great line-up again this year. Sharing!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sarah! It’s simpler on the outside, but on the inside, I’m working toward a contest that will help writers grow.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        It really sounds like a wonderful experience. For all involved. Have fun with this one. I’ll be watching (and sharing). 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Sarah!

  5. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    It’s October again. That means it’s time for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo. This year it is being run a little differently but everyone still has a chance to join in. The first contest is now open for your entries and the prompt is ‘Tall Tales’. Pop over to the Ranch for details, and read Charli’s previous post with suggestions to support your writing: Get Ready to Rodeo Like It’s 2019!

    During the contest, I won’t be posting my usual mid-week flash fiction post but will reblog Charli’s prompt post on the weekend to keep you up-to-date.
    I wish you all success. What a fun rodeo with lots of great prizes!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for committing to reblogging each week, Norah! This first contest was inspired by your twisted fairy tails.

      • Norah

        The stories should be inspired then, Charli.
        It’s my pleasure to help spread the word. The contests are fun. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        We’ll get some shooting stars going!

  6. Norah

    Love this prompt. I’m looking forward to writing my response. Best wishes to all contestants. I look forward to reading the winning entries at the conclusion of the contest.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m sure, as an early childhood educator, you’ve heard lots of imaginative tall tales! I look forward to reading, too. 😉

      • Norah

        I’ve probably told one or two as well. My first draft is down. Now for some dusting. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Let it sit, and come back to it with a fresh feather duster!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Marje!

  7. Chelsea Owens

    I think Charli needs a tall tale: The Starlings and The Writer.

    • Norah

      Are you writing that one, Chelsea?

      • Chelsea Owens

        In my free time….

        D. Avery or you need to write it, really. 🙂 It needs a talented hand.

      • Norah

        Thank you for your vote of confidence, Chelsea. I think maybe it should be you. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I might write it! <3

      • Chelsea Owens

        ? You’d know the core story.

  8. floridaborne

    Not sure if I sent in the same thing twice.

    I thought I sent it in, and then I saw that it was still up on the screen.

    My apologies if I sent in two of the same thing.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s all good! I grab the first one by IP address.

  9. Jules

    This is a Challenge Piece:

    I just wanted to put in something…
    I still have to think about a better piece if/for the contest. Enjoy

    Blasting Bunyan

    Paul and Babe worked hard to keep their farm going. The city slowly encroached. The two were a simple pair that got the job done. Their undoing was the tourists looking to escape the city. Some young kids had mom and dad stop the car to take photos on their tablets. The youngsters not being thrilled with being taken away from the city created video manipulating the farmer into a giant and coloring Babe blue.

    The giant hatchet throwing farmer and his dancing blue Ox soon had over ten thousand likes. And too many city folks looking for them.


    • Charli Mills

      This is wonderfully fun! I hope you enter, Jules.

      • Jules

        I didn’t think that quite worked. I have another one… but you did say the best 😉 The ideas are slow for this one so I may just have to enter ‘that’ one. But I’m still ‘remixing’ it 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Yes! It’s good to recognize what works best and follow your instinct on it as the creator of your literary art.

  10. Fantasy with Science

    tell the site for participation.

    On 04/10/2019, Carrot Ranch Literary Community

    • Charli Mills

      This is the site for participation. The entry form is in the post. Are you looking for clarification? Not sure what the date reference is to…

  11. Jules

    OK I submitted an entry. busy week ahead, with a hospital visit at the end of the week… Might not be around until early next week.

    Good Luck everyone!

    • Charli Mills

      Wishing you and yours all the luck and good results this weekend, Jules!

      • Jules


  12. Caitlin Gramley

    I am excited to take part this year. I missed it last year. But I am struggling with the word count. I wrote a rough idea of a story and it was well over the limit! time for deep cuts!

    • Charli Mills

      Caitlin, I hope you discover the joy of deep cuts to a story. It can lead to unexpected discoveries and force creative solutions. Glad you can join in!

  13. susansleggs

    Thank you to Charli for giving us a place to grow and the advice to let our all tales set a day or two. I keep thinking and revising. Good luck everyone.

    • Pete

      Amen to that. This site has been my safe haven for years now!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s remarkable what the space of a day can do for one’s writing!

      Thank you, Sue and Pete! It takes a community to make the haven work!

  14. Pete

    Ben tore out of the job site, his spotless boots on the gas, dust trailing the truck.

    He was happy to have a task. Being new, he’d worried the guys would mess with him. He wanted to get the errand done without any trouble.
    He entered Green’s Hardware, his hardhat gleaming.

    At the desk, he presented the levels the guys had handed him. “Hello, I need to get some new bubbles for these levels,” he said proudly.

    Old Green gave him a wizened smile.

    “First day?”

    Ben removed his hat. “Sure is.”

    “Thought so, I’ll check on your bubbles.”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Great example of the tall tales greenhorns believe, Pete!

      When I worked for the state park near my hometown, I joined the maintenance crew as the only female. We cleaned the campground bathrooms every morning, and I got stuck cleaning the women’s side alone, while three other crew cleaned the men’s. If that weren’t skewed enough, they told me I had “good times” and might beat the “record.” They convinced me for an entire week to clean both sides while the three of them stood by with a watch, timing me and then, checking the bathrooms to make sure I cleaned thoroughly. By the end of the week, they had me so puffed up that I was certainly going to beat the record bathroom cleaning times in the entire state park system that I should go tell our boss my times. My boss frowned at me, and asked, “What?” Then he looked over at the three who had me going all week and they took off laughing and running, me in pursuit, swinging a toilet brush!

  15. JoHawkTheWriter

    How bout that? I got er done and not at the last second. Thanks for all of your hard work on this Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Woohoo! Good job, Jo!

  16. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli,

    I don’t want to miss the fun completely this year. I squeezed some time in from my two trips to write the draft and told my hubby to leave me alone for an hour this morning from the Maui adventure. I just submitted it.

    Great theme for the first round, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      What a wonderful break, Miriam! To write from Paradise. 🙂 Enjoy your family time!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Charli! ?????????

  17. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    Tough prompt to kick off this rodeo but what fun would it be without the challenge?! Looking forward to reading all the entries. Good luck all!!

    • Charli Mills

      Right out the gate — a tall challenge! Thanks, Kay!

  18. floatinggold

    I thought you would go easy on us with the first prompt, but no.
    It was difficult for me. I’m not sure if I understood it correctly.
    I have social commentary for my piece, but I will have to let it stand on its own.

    Thank you for the opportunity, Charli, and I look forward to more. It’s a hectic time for me, but I MUST Rodeo. Yeehaw!

    • Charli Mills

      You are all ready for the challenges! Thanks for your enthusiasm despite the hectic season, Goldie.

  19. Charli Mills

    Thanks for sharing, Susan!

  20. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  21. Charli Mills

    Thanks for sharing!


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